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Theories of Propaganda : 

Theories of Propaganda Baran & Davis (2003) Chapter 4 Severin & Tankard (1997) Chapter 6 Griffin (2000) Chapter 23

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At the end of this lesson students should be able to learn the following: The meaning of propaganda. The origin of propaganda. Modern development of propaganda. The merging of Magic Bullet Theory. The objectives of propaganda. The categories of propaganda.

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Contemporary theorists on propaganda such works like The Propaganda Theory by Lasswell 1934, The Public opinion Theory by Lipmann’s 1922, & Dewey’s criticism on propaganda, 1927.The Bullet Theory by Schramm 1971; The Hypodermic Needle theory by Berlo, 1960; Stimulus –response Theory by DeFleur & Ball-Rokeach, 1989;

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Mc Luhan (1964) Media or Technological Determinism Theory Media or Technological Determinism Theory

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The devices of propaganda. The effectiveness of propaganda devices. Conclusion.

What is Propaganda? The Origin of Propaganda: 

What is Propaganda? The Origin of Propaganda The term propaganda comes form the Latin Congregatio de propaganda fide (Congregation for the Propagation of Faith) established by Catholic Church in 1622 during the Counter-Reformation movement where various groups are breaking away from the Catholic Church (p.109-110) The congregation was part of the Church’s Counter-Reformation movement.

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One of the debated issues during that period was that the struggle between science & religion as the source of knowledge about the world. Propaganda at this point of time often was associated with negative or connotations and with the untruth from the above debate (Severin & Tankard,p.110)

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Now, the term propaganda refers to the use of communication messages to propagate specific beliefs & expectations (Baran & Davis, p.71)

Early Development: 

Early Development By 1920s Freudianism & Behaviorism attempts to produce a simplistic propaganda theory. For the Behaviorism theorists they had the notion that all human action is a conditional response to external , environmental stimuli.

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For the Freudianism theorists on the other hand, they had the notion that human behavior is the product of the conflict between individuals’ id, ego & superego. Fulfilling these needs allow them to be persuaded.

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In the Magic Bullet Theory – the rationale was that the media penetrate people’s mind and instantly create effects. The external stimuli (mass media) are able to condition anyone to behave whatever way a propagandist wants. E.g. by controlling these media messages propagandist’s felt that could condition people to associates with good or bad emotions, fear or loyalty emotions etc.

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The propagandists saw that the average people are powerless to consciously resists this influence or be manipulated. No matter what their social status, how well educated they are the magic bullet of propaganda penetrates their defenses & transform their thoughts and actions.

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The advocates of Magic Bullet Theory argued in support that the power of the media to influence the audience are great. An average audience therefore cannot resist media manipulation.

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Lasswell’s (1927) classic work “Propaganda Technique in World War” was the first attempt to define propaganda in modern times. His work refers to the control of opinion using significant symbols such as stories, rumors, reports, pictures and other form of social communication.”

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In 1937,-ten years later- Lasswell presented a slightly different definition than before. “ Propaganda in a broader sense is a technique of influencing human action by the manipulation of representations. These manipulations may be in a form of spoken, written, pictorial or musical form”

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Lasswell’s definition of propaganda often times are also referred by other scholars as part of theory of persuasion which also includes both advertising and other means of publicity.

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Both the term propaganda & persuasion was hotly debated some scholars. Brown (1958) for example makes a clear distinction by defining persuasion as ‘symbol-manipulation designed to produce action in others’. ‘Propaganda on the other hand is the process when someone judges that the action taken by the persuader is not in the interest of the persuadee’. The differences lies on the source and the receiver.

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Although the techniques applied for both persuasion and propaganda are identical – the benefits gained by the source and the receiver is certainly differs.

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Lasswell (1927) also discussed four major objectives of propaganda as follows: 1. To mobilize hatred against the enemy. 2. To preserve the friendship of allies. 3. To preserve the friendship and if possible to acquire the cooperation of neutrals 4. To demoralize the enemy.

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As a matter of fact the war time propaganda could then be traced as far back to The Art of War - a book written by Sun Tsu in China before the birth of Christianity.

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The rise of Nazis to power in Germany through the propaganda minister Goebbels, provided evidence of greater success in Hitler’s regime Germany. Propagandists often rely on the concept of disinformation to discredit their opposition. Disinformation referring to the spread of false information to discredit the opposition.

Categories of Propaganda: 

Categories of Propaganda As theorists studied propaganda they are able to differentiate the different categories of propaganda. They are as follows: Black Propaganda involved deliberate strategic transmissions of lies (e.g Nazis, Germany) White Propaganda involved international suppression of potentially harmful information & ideas combined with deliberate promotion of positive information or ideas to distract attention.

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Grey Propaganda involved transmission of information or ideas that might or might not be false. No effort to determine their validity.

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Although, Lasswell’s work was never widely read, his views were shared by Walter Lippmann a columnist for the New York Times. Lippmann’s (1922) writing on the roles of Public Opinion pointed out the discrepancies that exist between ‘the world outside & the pictures in our head’ . These differences were unavoidable, because he doubted whether the average people could govern themselves. People simply couldn't learn enough form media to help them understand the total environment (like democracy, the roles of free press etc).

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Lippmann’s believed that propaganda through media posed a severe challenge that a drastic changes in the political system is required. According to him the public was venerable to propaganda. Therefore some form agency (as gate keeping) is needed to protect the public.

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Media control was necessary. Self-censorship by media alone was not sufficient. The best solution to the problem was to place control of information gathering and distribution in the hands of benevolent (caring / trusted) technocracy like a scientific elite – that could be trusted to use scientific methods to sort facts from fictions and make good decisions about who should received these messages.

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To accomplish this - a governmental intelligent bureau was suggested. This bureau could determine which information could be transmitted to the public through the mass media and which information people are better off not knowing.

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Both Lasswell & Lippmann ideas were strongly criticized by other scholars like Dewey (1927). As champion of democracy against totalitarian Dewey refuse to accept the need for a technocracy that would use scientific methods to protect the people themselves. He argued would that people could learn to defend themselves if they were only taught how to defense themselves.

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E.g. he argued that newspapers could do more than just simply serve as ‘bulletin board’’ for information about current happening. They should serve as vehicles for public education and debate. They should teach critical thinking skills and structure public discussion of important issues.

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Media should be understood not as external agents but as servants that should facilitate public discussions and debate. They should serve as guidance & facilitators of public forum in which democratic politics are conducted.

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But when the media assume the role of external agents and work to ‘manipulate the pictures in people’s head’ the media loose their power to serve as credible facilitators & guardians of public debate. They just become another competitor for our attention.

Modern Theory of Propaganda: 

Modern Theory of Propaganda Some contemporary critics argue that the type propaganda conforming to the traditional rules is still alive. Today it is practiced with sophistication and effectiveness. Political discourse and advertising are some of the examples .

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Powerful elites control the mass media contents and on this score they have little trouble imposing their own ‘truth’ or ‘values’ on others.

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Advertising for example although different ads may appear with different products but the logic assumption is that it supports the ideas of consumption & capitalism. Not that consumption and capitalism by itself bad ( although they had the tendency to manipulate) other alternatives were not considered.

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In cases where alternatives are considered those who raised these alternatives are viewed as out of the main stream. (as argument put forward by critical theorists)

The Devices of Propaganda : 

The Devices of Propaganda Severin & tankard (1997) listed 7 most common devices of propaganda used in contemporary society. They are widely used in political campaigns, advertisements, newspaper columns and statements by extremist groups. They are as follows: 1. Name Calling / Negative Labeling is the process of giving an idea a bad label which is used to reject and condemn the idea without really examining the evidence (Lee & Lee 1939)

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Name calling does not appear much in ads because company are reluctant to name their competitive products (Brand x vs brand y ) but is widely used in politics & other public discourse. E.g. labeling certain groups as Terrorist or Terrorism, guerrilla vs freedom fighter or a martyr’.

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2. Glittering Generality –that is using a ‘virtue word’ to make us accept and approve without examining the evidence (Lee &Lee 1939). E.g. in Product names & promotion such as Gold Medal flour, Imperial Margarine, Super Shell, Superior Diary etc. Claims such as ‘natural ingredients’. E.g. in Politics and Business – phrases like the ‘right to work’, ‘the right to vote’ ‘bottom line profit’ ‘private enterprise’ ‘globalization’ etc are examples in politics and business.

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E.g in International Relations –concepts or phrases like ‘operation just cause’ , ‘Sustainable Environment’ are common type of propaganda. E.g. Transfer words through a process of associations. ‘Peace signs’ and use of other symbols to illustrate quality. E.g. In Commercial phrases used like ‘celebrating new century’, Made in USA/Malaysia etc are examples.

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E.g. In Music –the use of recognizable music theme like film music such as ‘mission impossible’ ‘music from the film Titanic are some of the examples. or use of news photographs, film clip, video tapes etc.

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E.g. In Advertising the use of cowboys for endorsement condusive environment like the ‘cowboys’ for Marlboro, J&B Scotch with Christmas, use of celebrity personality, ‘Betty Crocker endorsing food products. E.g. the use of Testimonial – use of respected personality to endorse the products or cases to instill public trust.

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3. Plain Folks is the process by which a speaker attempts to convince his audience that he and his ideas are good because they are ‘of the people’ and the ‘plain folk’ (Lee & Lee, 1939) E.g. In Advertising – similar to an endorsement method and ads used the commoners as role models –’the Petronas commercials. ‘land of the Green Giant’

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E.g. In Politics –projecting the political candidate as part of the ordinary citizen to gain support of the commoners – the introduction of ‘the peoples candidate or the people choice’ 4. Card Stacking –is the process involving the selection and use of facts or falsehoods, illustrations or distractions, logical or illogical statements in order to give the best or worse possible case for an idea, program, person or product.

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E.g. In TV commercials – a tv commercial who show a person who is interviewed over a cup of coffee and asked after testing it ‘would you say the coffee tastes as rich as it look’. The person then endorse the product. This type of commercial do not show the report or the number of interviewees –or it did not show others who did not agree with it. ‘ a self fulfillment prophesy’.

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E.g. In Controlling the news –the establishment usually try to attempt to ensure only the ‘correct’ version of events get published inline with the establishment policy. 5. Band Wagon – propagandist attempts to convince us that all members of the group to which we belong are accepting his program and that we must therefore follow the crowd.

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E.g. In Advertising –appeal that describe majority choice –’the people choice’, ‘the Pepsi Generation’, are some of the examples.

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E.g. In War time use – nations involving in combat needs war heroes to build moral. E.g. In Government propaganda – Often government needs models for others to emulate.- In China Mao praised the group Tachai Production Brigade as a model of self-reliance. ‘In agriculture learn from Tachai’

Effectiveness of Propaganda Devices: 

Effectiveness of Propaganda Devices Scientific evidence is now available ineffectiveness of some of the propaganda devices. Most of it comes from experiments done by social psychologists how attitudes can be changed. Evidence of effectiveness on card staking comes from experiments conducted by Hovland, Lumsdaine & Sheffield ,1949; Lmsdaine & Janis 1953)

Modern Propaganda Theory: 

Modern Propaganda Theory Testimonial & Bad Wagon by Brown, 1958; Hovelnd & weiss, 1951; Asch, 1958; Serif, 1958) The Bullet Theory by Schramm 1971; the Hypodermic Needle theory by Berlo, 1960; Stimulus –response Theory by DeFleur & Ball-Rokeach, 1989,. These theories suggest that people are extremely vulnerable to mass communication messages.

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Mc Luhan (1964) Media or Technological Determinism Theory argued that the effects of technology alter our patterns of perceptions and without resistance. It however does not alter our opinions. In his book ‘Media is the Message’ & ‘Understanding Media’ he is saying that the most important effect of communication media is that it effect our habits of perceptions and thinking.

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Mc Luhan (1978) proposed the notion of two different styles of thinking – the two sides of the brain (left & right). The left brain being logical, rational and language oriented while the right side is institutive, irrational and picture –oriented.

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Noelle-Neumann (1973, 1980) introduced the theory of ‘Spiral Silence’ which also gives the mass media more powerful than other theories. Noelle-Neumann argued that mass media do have powerful effect on pubic opinions (accumulation, ubiquity & consonance).

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Consonance refers to the unified picture of an event that can develop and often share by different newspapers, magazines, tv channels etc. that the message is to present the impression the way the media is presenting it.

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In the case of the controversial issues people form impressions about the distribution of public opinion. The theory try to determine whether they are in the majority and then they try to determine whether public opinion is changing to agree with them. If they feel they are in the minority, they tend to remain silence.

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Conclusion: The work of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis led to what we can consider a primitive theory of attitude change. There is a need for further work. The knowledge of the devices can make us better informed on the effects of propaganda.

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